Violent Crime Drops, Trump Gets No Credit

On September 30, the FBI released its annual report on crime for 2018. It showed that violent crime declined over 2017 in every category except rape, where a revised definition was applied. The number of homicides declined by 6.1%; the rate went down by even more than that, to 5.0 per 100,000.

The FBI’s good news about crime got very little publicity, and I can’t find a single publication that gave the Trump administration any credit for the trend. Why should they, you might ask, since homicide and other violent crimes have been declining since the 1990s?

Because that decline was interrupted by a two-year upward spike in 2015 and 2016, the last two years of the Obama administration. The homicide rate then fell in 2017, and more steeply in 2018. Last December, as I noted here, the New York Times reported that the murder rate for 2018 was “on track for a big drop.” It gave us this useful chart, with the 2018 rate projected (the actual rate came in slightly lower):

In its December 2018 story, the Times acknowledged the dramatic upward spike in the last years of the Obama administration, but offered no theory as to what might have caused it:

The murder rate in the United States in 2018 is on track for the largest one-year drop in five years.
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Murder rose 23 percent nationally between 2014 and 2016 before leveling off in 2017.

Emphasis added. As I wrote in March:

So what happened in 2015 and 2016 to cause the violent crime rate, including the homicide rate, to rise after decades of decline? I can’t think of any explanation other than the Black Lives Matter movement and the relentless attacks on law enforcement that it engendered, which were supported by the Obama administration. But what happened when Donald Trump took over in the White House? The homicide and violent crime rates began to fall again.

I conservatively estimated that the 2015-2016 increase in homicides under Obama cost more than 5,000 lives (most of them black). Conversely, thousands of lives are now being saved, as the homicide rate declines. You might consider this newsworthy, but our newspapers don’t. Anything that reflects negatively on the Obama administration or positively on the Trump administration–this is a twofer–is best left unmentioned.

When the 2018 FBI report came out on September 30, the New York Times did report on it. Once again, the paper noted the 2015-2016 spike:

The decline in overall crime continues a decades-long trend but follows a two-year uptick in violent crime in 2015 and 2016 that raised concerns about the possibility of a broad shift in the pattern.

The Times doesn’t speculate about what might have caused a “broad shift in the pattern,” or why that threatened “broad shift” was reversed when Donald Trump took office. The reader is left to ponder the mystery of a “broad shift in the pattern” that coincided with the Obama administration’s campaign against law enforcement.

The FBI’s annual report also includes information on homicide perpetrators, victims and weapons. Once again, most homicide victims are black, and, in the cases where the race of the murderer is known (70% of the total), 55% are black. Asian-Americans, on the other hand, rarely commit homicide.

We are living through another bout of “assault weapon” hysteria, and once again, the FBI data debunk the idea that a certain category of semiautomatic rifle is uniquely dangerous. In fact, rifles are rarely used to commit murder, as this table shows. Rifles–all rifles, not just a certain category of semiautomatic rifle–accounted for only 2% of homicide victims in 2018. Knives are used in five times as many homicides. Blunt objects (“clubs, hammers, etc.,” as the FBI helpfully explains) account for more victims than rifles, and more than twice as many are beaten to death with bare hands as are killed with rifles.

A final note on homicide methods: about one quarter as many people are murdered with narcotics as are killed with rifles, even though there are far more Americans who own rifles than there are Americans who use illegal drugs. If rifles are too dangerous for individuals to own, for fear that they might be misused, how about narcotics? And yet many of those who campaign to ban America’s most widely-owned rifles also champion liberalization of drug laws, if not outright legalization. And, of course, narcotic drugs are devastating primarily to the user himself, and only secondarily because they are occasionally used as a murder weapon.

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